The Torah portion Shmos begins by saying:1 “And these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt….” Rashi comments:2 “Although He counted them by name while they were alive, He counted them again after their passing in order to make known (and demonstrate) his love for them; for they are likened to the stars, which He takes out and brings in by their numbers and names….

If Rashi simply desired to prove that something loved is counted by number as well as by name, he would have simply stated that they are “like the stars which He takes out and brings in by number and name.” Rashi’s statement, “for they are likened to the stars,” serves to imply that because the children of Israel possess the same quality as the stars, they are therefore counted in a like manner.

What is this “star” quality?

Although love of something is evinced through counting as well as through naming, counting and calling by name emphasize two different aspects of that which is being counted or called:

Counting emphasizes the commonalty of things — wholly disparate entities cannot be included in the same count. A name, on the other hand, emphasizes the individuality of each thing.

Rashi indicates this when he states “for they are likened to the stars,” for stars possess both these aspects. On the one hand, they all share the fact of star-hood, and are counted precisely because each star is important. On the other hand, each star possesses unique qualities, for which reason each has it own name.

Each Jew, who is “likened to the stars,” shares the essential quality of Jewishness, and is “truly part of G‑d above.”3 In addition, each possesses qualities unique to the individual.

G‑d’s love for the Jewish people thus finds expression in two ways: By counting them He manifests His love for their essential Jewishness, and by calling each by name He demonstrates His love for the unique qualities of each and every one.

However, when G‑d desired to show love for individual Jews, He could have done so in any number of ways. Why did He specifically choose to count them by name?

G‑d’s intrinsic love for the Jewish people serves as the template for all parental love.4 With human parents also, we find that mentioning a child’s name arouses a degree of love that cannot be elicited by other means, such as by giving the child a gift, showering him with words of love, or even hugging and kissing him.

Giving a child a gift or loving words depends on the child’s age: If a parent gives his grown son or daughter a gift fit for a very young child, then rather than it being seen as an expression of love it may be taken in the opposite way. Words of love, too, must be geared to the individual child’s level.

Since gifts and loving talk must be tailored to the age and comprehension of each child, it is clear that love manifested through these vehicles is limited. It thus cannot be an elemental love for the essence of the child, since elemental love is not limited by the child’s intellect, maturity, etc.

Even hugs and kisses, which can be given to both younger and older children, are limited, for they can only be bestowed when the recipient is close at hand. Essential love is not limited by time or space.

The only evocation of love that is truly unlimited is the mentioning of a child’s name: it matters not whether the child is young or old, near or far, bright or dim, etc.

Thus, when G‑d desired to show His essential love for the Jewish people, He “counted them by name. ”

Compiled from Likkutei Sichos , Vol. VI, pp. 1-10.